Native bees – Helena, Wahroonga

case-study-native-bees

Since moving to Wahroonga, keen gardener Helena has been busy creating a thriving community of organic plants and insects in her backyard.

Once she heard about Council’s WildThings program which provides residents with a backyard hive to help boost local numbers of the stingless native bee Tetragonula carbonaria, she knew she wanted to be involved.

What made you get a beehive?

I have an organic garden and I aim for biodiversity. Tetragonula bees are so important for pollination and part of the whole cycle of life in the garden. When I heard about Council’s program I knew I wanted to do something to help support their population. Lots of people use chemicals for getting rid of weeds or fertilising and it’s not good for bees, so it’s comforting to know I’m supporting their sustainability.

It’s also great for teaching my son about life in the garden as well. He can identify lots of insects and plants and loves to help out planting things. The bees bring more life to the garden and it’s quite peaceful watching them.

Where did you get your beehive?

I got my beehive and the Tetragonula bee colony free from Council after being on the waiting list for over a year. The hive is in my back garden next to my veggie garden and chook shed in a nice northeast-facing spot.

Hives have to face north and you don’t want them getting the afternoon western sun. Our hive gets the morning sun and on a warm day the bees get active and excited. It’s lovely to watch them going in an out bringing in pollen and nectar.

Does it take a lot of work to look after?

No. The only thing you have to watch out for is very hot days. If the temperature gets over 44 degrees the hive can die. We shaded ours as you can’t move it very far either. Bees have a tracking system and after the hive is in place you can only move it small distances - about 10cm/day.

There should be about 6,000 – 10,000 bees in the hive by now. They are much smaller than the European honey bee and don’t sting or swarm, so they are a great ‘pet’ to have.

What have you learned?

My knowledge of their behaviour has certainly developed over the last year. When it’s cold they just don’t come out.

To sustain the population as much as possible I decided to plant a lot more flowering perennial herbs – Greek Basil, Pineapple Sage, Russian Sage and Echinacea. The pollens are all different colours and you can see them attached to their legs and know which plant they’ve visited.

What do the neighbours think?

They love it. We have a quite a few keen gardeners in our street and we share vegetables around. Lots of people ask about honey – but our hive is not set up for that.